of eight primary systems
in a building.
structural system is similar to the skeleton of the human body. It provides the
primary support for
The structural system has the following general attributes:
- The elements of the structural system
are part of the base
building and typically shared
assets between different sections or stakeholders.
- The assets are highly robust and therefore long-life assets.
structure of the building is often inaccessible or hidden by interior
finishes (on the inside) and elements of the building enclosure (on the
outside). The fact that this system is difficult to access and supports
all other systems in the building means that it should last the life
the building with minimal maintenance and renewal activities. A
possible exception to this general rule is an underground parking
structure where components are more accessible and can therefore be
inspected and maintained to some extent.
- Structural assets typically have a very low maintenance-to-replacement ratio (MRR) since the assets have a long life.
The structural system includes assets
The photographs to
the right show some of the
different facets of the structural system.
Physical analyses of the systems can be found at:
management is about identifying the undesirable things that could
happen to the organization, to the people who live and work in the
building(s) and the things that must be done to avoid (or to lessen)
the negative impact.
Some of the primary risks (the
“consequences”) that are to be avoided or mitigated through management
of the structural system are as follows:
Some of the hazards (the “causes”) that can affect the performance of the structural assets are as follows:
- Potential safety hazards (eg. falling concrete)
- Compromised structural integrity resulting in restricted access to balconies (and potential building evacuation)
- Unsightly cracks, spalling and delamination
- Expensive repairs to structural components
the organization fully understands and appreciates the significance of
the consequences that may arise from inadequate care of the structural
assets, the team can start to make appropriate plans for operations and
maintenance so as to mitigate the impact on the organization and its
- Water exposure to structural elements (both wood frame and concrete)
- De-icing salt exposure to structural elements (concrete)
- Insect and rodent exposure to structural elements (wood)
- Changing subgrade conditions
is about the day-to-day activities in the building that must be
coordinated amongst different people with a variety of skills.
Listed below are some of the things that should be considered in
estimating the level-of-effort to directly operate (or indirectly care
for) the structural assets and the composition of the team that will be
- Durability & Service Life
- Structural assets are designed to be highly robust and are therefore
considered very long-life assets (50+ years). However, the lifespans of
some structural assets can be shortened if they are not protected from
water damage. For example, exposure to water can damage a wood frame
- The Asset Inventory
– Since many of the structural assets are hidden from view and will not
require maintenance over the life of the building, the structural
inventory of assets is the shortest of all systems. Typically, there
will be one to three structural assets that will require maintenance.
- The Team
– Given the special nature of the structural system, the organization
will not typically have any staff dedicated to structural work. As
problems may arise, these are referred to qualified consultants and
contractors. Some of the other systems, however, will require the
organization to train its staff to operate those assets.
- Equipment & Supplies
– Under normal operating conditions, there is no need for the
organization to keep any equipment and supplies for the structural
While the structural system does not
typically require much day-to-day care, it does need to be managed
carefully over longer cycles.
- Documentation & Recordkeeping
– The organization should keep its structural drawings in a safe place.
No recordkeeping is typically required for any of the structural
Maintenance & Repairs
is work done to preserve the structural assets over their useful
service lives, without unforeseen repairs or major renewal. Included
below is a summary of the things to consider for ongoing maintenance
and periodic repairs of the different components of the structural
- The structure of the building is often inaccessible or hidden by
interior finishes (on the inside) and elements of the building
enclosure (on the outside). The fact that this system is difficult to
access and supports all other systems in the building means that it
should last the life the building with minimal maintenance and renewal
activities. A possible exception to this general rule is an underground
parking structure where components are more accessible and can
therefore be inspected and maintained to some extent.
- Repairs –
Signs of potential distress in the structural system are evidenced by
cracks, spalling, delamination, deflection, dry rot, etc. People often
do not know how to gauge the significance of cracks, which may often be
an insignificant sign of movement or indicate a systemic problem.
Structural issues should always be referred to a structural engineer.
Peeling coatings (such as paint) are not a sign of distress in the
structural system but must be attended to as the coatings may be
serving a protection function (in addition to any aesthetic function).
normal operating conditions, the structural system should not require
any capital planning as most of the components should last the life of
the building. However, this is contingent upon proper maintenance being
performed in the enclosure system.
An example of a structural
renewal project is crack repairs and restoration of delaminated and
spalled concrete in a building parkade.
Financial analyses of the
systems can be found at:
Energy Management Considerations
The structural system is, generally speaking, a passive
system that does not consume energy or waste energy. The one exception,
however, is when the structural system also serves as the outside walls of a
building and therefore separates the interior conditioned spaces from the
exterior environment. Opportunities to optimize the structural system through
the implementation of energy efficient measures are therefore included in the
discussion of the enclosure system.
columns are an asset within the structural system.
Fig. Human physiology as an analogy to illustrate the importance of system interaction and comparing the skeletal system to the structural system.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) distributed by system across the asset portfolio.
Exterior stairs are part of the structural system.
representation of the interconnected systems in buildings.